Pope Francis at the Angelus prayer © Angelo Carconi
Human trafficking is "modern-day slavery". This is what Pope Francis said at Sunday's Angelus prayer in Rome. He called for action against human trafficking on this Sunday, which is also UN World Day Against Human Trafficking.
His first trip as pope took Jorge Mario Bergoglio to the island of Lampedusa. The Argentinean wants to set an example against human trafficking. Almost exactly four years later, on the UN World Day against Trafficking in Persons, he took up the topic again at the Angelus prayer in Rome.
"Every year, thousands of men, women and children become innocent victims, exploited as labor or sexually, or victims of organ trafficking. I call once again for everyone's commitment so that this terrible scourge, a kind of modern slavery, can be effectively combated," the pope warned. "Let us ask the Virgin Mary to assist the victims of human trafficking and to convert the hearts of traffickers."
Have we become accustomed to human trafficking?
Human trafficking is "despicable" said the Pope and appealed to all forces in society to take action against this "modern form of slavery". Francis called not only for prayers for victims, but also for the conversion of traffickers.
The public seems so used to human trafficking that it is considered something normal, Francis criticized. "This is evil, this is cruel, this is criminal."
UN World Day against Trafficking in Persons
According to the United Nations, more than 20 million people worldwide suffer the consequences of human trafficking.
More than two-thirds of exploitation is due to forced prostitution, according to a statement from the refugee agency UNHCR. Seventy percent of victims are women and girls, and minors account for a quarter of the victims.
"Tip of the iceberg"
Caritas Europa also warned in this context of the consequences for the personality and the lives of those children who have become victims of human trafficking. Caritas Europa's human trafficking expert Genevieve Colas said the media reports about the missing refugee children were only the "tip of the iceberg". Urgent action is needed, says Colas. He said it is especially important to protect unaccompanied migrant minors.
German Family Minister Katarina Barley (SPD) campaigned for better protection of children and young people in Germany. "All forms of human trafficking aim to exploit people through criminal means. And human trafficking also exists here in Germany. Our goal is to identify and protect the victims and provide them with the necessary help and support," she stressed. Perpetrators must not be allowed to get away with their "criminal and inhuman activity".
Italy's head of state urges solidarity
Meanwhile, Italy's President Sergio Mattarella has again called for European solidarity in the refugee crisis. Trafficking gangs, although distinct from human traffickers under international law, also drive their victims into "circumstances of slavery," Mattarella said Sunday in Rome. Mattarella called trafficking in persons a "horrible and unacceptable crime". The international community cannot stand by and watch these tragedies in a cowardly manner. The fight against human trafficking must be conducted "with all the necessary energy" and across borders. The Italian head of state also called for cooperation and development to end the extreme poverty that drives people into the arms of unscrupulous criminals.
"No nation and no citizen can remain indifferent as long as even a single person is forced to live as a slave" said Mattarella. "In the Mediterranean, this commitment has much to do with the fight against the criminal gangs that operate the traffic of migrants and refugees."